Coal for Russia?

Russia is the sixth world largest coal producing country and the third coal exporter after Indonesia and Australia. Experts note activation of the coal industry - one of the "climate- unfriendly" segments of the energy market. Representatives of environmental organizations believe that the coal industry must be radically diversified, and "green" energy shall be developed instead.

At the UN Conference in Warsaw, environmentalists presented a report prepared by BankTrack, CEE Bankwatch, Urgewald, Polska Zielona Siec and "Ecodefence!," in which Russia is called a global "hot coal point." Russia got in the "dirty list" together with China - the world main producer and importer of coal -, Indonesia, Australia, India, Kazakhstan, European "lignite triangle" consisting of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, Colombia, South Africa, Mozambique and the United States.

According to the environmentalists, coal is the most "dirty" fuel in terms of climate. Its mining in Russia increased by 48 % since 2000 and reached 358 million tons per year. The share of "black energy" has no more than 20 % in the energy balance of Russia at the moment, but the industry has big plans for revival.

Environmentalists note unfavorable environmental situation in the main Russian coal mining region, Kuzbass, where, according to their data, concentration of pollutants in the air exceeds the national average by 2 to 3 times.

Today, 90 % of the total annual coal consumption at power stations of Russia are low quality coals, while high-quality brands are exported. Volumes of steam coal enrichment in Russia have increased in recent years.

International researchers believe that coal attracts power industry in different countries because of its relative cheapness, but warn that fossil coal is the strongest atmospheric pollutant in terms of greenhouse gases. IEA warns of increasing demand for coal. The only exception is the U.S., where development of shale gas will be equivalent alternative.

Representatives of international non-governmental environmental organizations express concern about these processes. From the environmental point of view, thermal power plants are continuous sources of emissions of combustion products in the air. While toxicity of natural gas combustion is associated almost exclusively with the nitrogen oxides, the situation with coal combustion is much worse, being associated with releases of more ash and sulfur oxide. The latter is perhaps the most dangerous in its effects on the environment, because it is the cause of acid rain. Respiratory diseases and cardiovascular system illnesses, which kill annually many thousands of people - these are the consequences of prolonged exposure of people to coal industry.

Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, called to diversify the coal industry. She underlined that companies shall assess the risks associated with “business as usual.” “I want to say that the situation with coal must be changed quickly and dramatically, and this is in interests of all," she said." Some of the major oil, gas and energy companies already invest in renewable energy, and I urge everyone else to join them," - called Christiana Figueres.

IEA experts conclude: "The change from one ‘black gold’ to another does not bode well to humanity." According to their forecast, this transition may lead to the fact that by 2100 the average global temperature will rise by 6 degrees as compared to what it was before the industrial revolution.